UV sanitizing devices (need answer mildly fast?)

My parents are coming to visit next week. They own one of those boxes that supposedly uses UV to sanitize things like masks (their main use for it), and I expressed interest in looking into such devices. They suggested that I get one for myself that they could use during their visit (theirs takes up quite a bit of luggage space).

Well, I’m looking into them, and all the ones I’ve seen on Amazon so far with multiple reviews have at least one person claiming that it doesn’t use UV light, and therefore doesn’t work at all. Then there’s the issues of time (both how long its cycle takes and how long it’ll take to get here) and whether it covers all sides of what’s inside…

Anyone out there have more experience with these kinds of things that can give me the SD? Brand recommendations? Am I better off telling my parents to bring their own, or somehow convince them that they won’t need such a device for two weeks? I sort of took their ownership for granted, now that I think about it. I have to figure this out one way or the other soon, since they arrive on Sunday.

What I have read is that it is mostly woo, that primarily puts money in the seller’s pocket. My daughter had one in March 2020-we ‘disinfected’ our cell phones with it, til it broke 6 weeks in use. I think leaving masks out in sunlight probably works as well, but I have no cites. Laundering masks is what the CDC recommends and I’m sure their site has a useful page that could be forwarded to your folks on disinfecting objects. Techniques that wouldn’t involve transporting a bulky, considerably delicate object cross time zones for questionable benefit. “There’s a sucker born every……”

That said, here’s the cdc page on cleaning objects in the household. Electronics like phones is at the very bottom of the page. This addresses UV light for disinfecting:

Sounds like you getting a packet of electronic cleaning wipes would serve you all better than the woo-woo theatrics cleaner. There is a list of epa approved cleaners on that same page. Careful use of one of those will suffice.


I was more hoping to use it with masks, to get more life out of them before doing a wash, especially with the paper ones that are meant to be disposable.

That would be using a $50 UV box to be able to re-use $10 worth of paper masks. Plus those masks are called disposable because they should be disposed of after use. They aren’t certified to be beneficial if used outside parameters. Here’s what the cdc says about reusing disposable masks:

….The CDC does not recommend the reuse of disposable surgical masks that are intended to be used once. The FDA recognizes that there may be availability concerns with surgical masks during the COVID-19 public health emergency, but there are strategies to conserve surgical masks….

Now that masks are readily available every where it behooves us to use them as intended, vs when a year ago we didn’t know where our next mask was coming from.

Here’s a WashPost article on UV disinfection, not mask specific, but pans it pretty thoroughly.

The first CDC link seems to be specific to health care settings and professionals. I get that it’s probably safer to do what doctors do, but is it necessary for a trip to the store?

I’ll discuss the rest with my mom. They’re half the reason I’m even considering doing this, as a favor to them. It’s onerous to wash cloth masks after every use, especially in travel, which is why I was hoping it would help reduce that need, but if their box is just a placebo, it doesn’t make sense for me to waste my own money…

The company I work for makes UV lamps for sanitizing. Ours are broad-band; the most widely used are mercury lamps, which have discrete wavelengths, most notably a strong one at 254 nm.

The light you really want for sterilization is light in the range 240-280 nm, with peak effectiveness at 260 nm. This light is absorbed by DNA and can disrupt the DNA, leading to cell death. Since you are made up of cells, too, you don’t want to be exposed to this light yourself – it can lead to skin cancer and cataracts. The light is also blocked by most glass, so your mercury lamp (or broad band xenon lamp) better have a fused silica “envelope” to let that light escape. There are Deep UV LEDs that put out this wavelength, too, but they’re more expensive than your typical LED. (These LEDs are encapsulated in special UV-transmitting epoxies).

So the bottom line is that UV disinfection lamps are available, but you don’t want to be exposed to te light yourself. There is some disinfection action from just about all UV and visible wavelengths (“Sunshine makes the best disinfectant,” as justice Louis Brandeis said, and the quote gains power from being literally as well as metaphorically true. But ozone in the atmosphere blocks the 260 nm light, which is far, far more effective and powerful at killing germs, fungi, viruses, and spores.)